Man found tax refund deposited into wrong account

September 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Millions of people get their tax refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts, but be warned. A Bay Area man mistakenly put the wrong account number on his tax forms and he was told his money was gone forever. So he came to 7 On Your Side to get it back.

Anthony Lucero of Berkeley is hard at work editing his first feature film -- a movie he produced, directed and paid for himself.

"I sank a lot of money into that," said Lucero.

So he was looking forward to getting a small financial boost-- a tax refund of nearly $3,000.

"It would help me to fund my film so yeah, I wanted that tax return," said Lucero.

However, here's the plot twist. Lucero never received his tax refund. Instead, someone else did. He was shocked to find out a complete stranger had his $3,000 and what's worse, he couldn't get it back.

"It's a pretty sick feeling to know that your money is in somebody else's bank account and you can't get it," said Lucero.

Here's what happened: the IRS deposited his refund directly into his account at Citibank. However, his accountant mistakenly put Lucero's old account number on the tax forms. The account was now closed.

"I started going back and forth with Citibank," said Lucero.

It turns out the bank had assigned Lucero's old account number to a new customer and that person got his money.

"It was a little shocking that they told me that yes, my money did get deposited into his bank account and the money is gone," said Lucero.

Citibank said it could not take back the money and the money, which was no longer in the account anyway.

"That person saw that money and was like, 'Yes, payday,'" said Lucero.

Citibank told him to take up the issue with the IRS. The IRS told him to go back to the bank. It had deposited the funds as directed.

"Frustrated that was not going to happen, I finally contacted 7 On Your Side," said Lucero.

Lucero admits he should have checked the account number, but says the bank should not have assigned the old account to someone else. We found it is legal to reassign those numbers. However, Citibank tells us it no longer does so. Citibank said: "In the past, we recycled account numbers after a certain amount of time. We have phased out the practice over the past few years to avoid confusion."

The bank also said disputes like these involve the depositors, not the bank, telling us, "When a person authorizes a transfer of funds from a third party, we do not know who made that agreement with the third party. If there is a dispute, we refer them back to the party depositing the funds."

However, after our inquiries, Citibank did agree to reimburse Anthony that $3,000. It said: "Although the issue was actually between the customer and the IRS, we made a goodwill adjustment to the customer's account."

A nice ending to what may inspire Lucero's next movie.

"Yeah, it all ended well thanks to you guys," said Lucero.

He says this taught him how important it is to check all information on your tax forms.


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